Segment 2


Herbert Heilbrun was not working the day Pearl Harbor occurred. On that Sunday morning he was at a restaurant and thought the United States would go to war. Heilbrun wrote two letters a week to his divorced parents from overseas. He has the last letter he wrote to his parents before his missions. Heilbrun was only 24 years old when he came out of service. Looking back on his letters he remembered writing, “I close now that charming place I call boyhood.” Heilbrun cites the war as the place where he grew up. He would fight in battle again if it was necessary. After Pearl Harbor he hesitated joining the military. He is an only child to his mother and was working seven days a week. He took the exam in August 1943. After the exam he left for Nashville for classification. The men had to be physically perfect, but Heilbrun had a small calcification on his lung. He was taken to the doctor where they changed the calcification. Heilbrun then changed, mistakenly, from a Navigator to a Pilot. He and other men went on a train to Santa Ana [Annotator’s Note: Santa Ana Army Air Base in Costa Mesa, California] and he was taken off the train in Needles, California because he had measles. They transported him to the 61st Evacuation Hospital which turned out to be groups of tents in the desert. He and another man from his train were given shots. He stayed in the hospital for about ten days. Heilbrun transferred to Santa Ana for training. He flew his first open cockpit plane in Wickenburg, Arizona. Heilbrun was able to fly by himself once he landed multiple times. He took his basic training flying a Vultee Vibrator [Annotator’s Note: Vultee BT-13 Valiant] which he disliked. They lost an instructor and two cadets flying those planes. Heilbrun’s officer would hit him on the knees as he flew if the officer did not like how Heilbrun was flying the plane. Heilbrun still got his wings.


All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at